The New Pope

April 19, 2005 | 19 comments
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There have been many responses to the election of Cardinal Ratzinger to the papacy, becoming Pope Benedict 16. Here are some of them (thanks to Arts and Letters Daily)

Hans Kung (important Catholic theologian; one of the framers of Vatican II–sorry, but every attempt to write an umlaut “u” in his name, as it should be, ended with gibberish)

Andrew Sullivan

I take it that Sullivan’s reference to the Grand Inquisitor is, besides being a reference to Dostoevski, a reference to the position that Pope Benedict held in the Vatican before he was elected pope. He was the head of the congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which was formerly called “the Inquisition.” One of his official titles was “Grand Inquisitor of Rome.”

Michael Novak (Nat’l Review)

E. J. Dionne (Washington Post)

Jack Miles (Slate)

Charles Moore (Telegraph)

Daniel Johnson (Times)

Andrew Brown (Guardian)

Julian Baggini (Guardian)

Charlotte Hays

Paul Vallely (Independent)

CBS News

And here is something from the German press and from the French:

Rudiger Safranski (Der Spiegel–the inability to format this with an umlaut “u” continues to frustrate me; this is in English)

Le Monde

Feel free to respond to these links or to add your own.

19 Responses to The New Pope

  1. Jason on April 20, 2005 at 12:09 am

    I had heard of Cardinal Ratzinger while on my mission in Rome. In August 2001, he authored a response to a “dubium” in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, in which he announces the new change in policy that Mormon baptism would no longer be considered valid by the Catholic church. He had brought this question before John Paul II in 1994, if I understand correctly, but at that time John Paul II maintained that no change in policy was necessary. Of course, Mormons can’t really complain about Catholics not accepting our baptism; we don’t accept theirs. However, the change in attitude toward our church’s baptism as compare to many (but not all) other churches is interesting to note. I can’t say what it bodes for LDS-Catholic theological relations, though Ratzinger expressed his hope that our two churches would continue to work together for social good.

  2. Alan Phipps on April 20, 2005 at 12:12 am

    That is true… Note that Ratzinger’s response was a formal response to a dubium, a doubt or question, about the faith. It wasn’t an invention or something new, just a clarification, with which John Paul II agreed. The issue comes down to the understanding of the Holy Trinity, which is used as a form in the baptism. Since there are differences between the LDS and Roman Catholic understanding of the godhead (as Trinity), I find such a clarification to be a good thing, since it clears up some confusion.

  3. Alan Phipps on April 20, 2005 at 1:10 am

    Oh, one more thing – it should be noted that Ratzinger also helped “frame Vatican II” as an advisor (peritus) and helped on some important documents coming out of the council, such as Lumen Gentium.
    Don’t let Hans Kung throw you :) He likes to attract attention…

  4. Wilfried on April 20, 2005 at 1:30 am

    The choice of Ratzinger was expected, but still elicits mixed reactions from Catholics. “We’ll have to wait and see. The proof of the pudding is in the eating”, said Cardinal Danneels, according to the Belgian “Catholic” newspaper De Standaard. In that same paper, the reactions of readers are mostly negative. The strong cleavages in the Catholic church are more than apparent today and it remains surprising how vocal and how critical active Catholics dare to be.

  5. lyle on April 20, 2005 at 5:32 am

    1. If the Sullivan link is up; then a link to Prof. Bainbridge should be right next to his. Bainbridge offers his own excellent commentary & takes Sullivan apart to boot.
    http://www.professorbainbridge.com/2005/04/andrew_sullivan.html

    Mormons are often touchy about quoting Anti-’s, or going to them for knowledge/opinions on the LDS Church, rather than asking practicing & faithful members. The same applies here in spades.

    2. Wilfried: do you think it is accurate to say Pope Benedict XVI is drawing a mixed reaction “from Catholics”? Your statement would appear to be true in Europe and the U.S….but largely inaccurate in the rest of the Catholic world; i.e. the “strong cleavages” appear to be more regional and isolated than pandemic to the Catholic Church as a whole.

    3. Given that our own Church leaders have condemned “Cafeteria” style religion; esp. in the context of “Cafeteria Mormons,” I’m happy to see the selection of Benedict XVI. Frankly, I like the concept of a Church’s leader telling its followers that they should follow doctrine and take their religion seriously, rather than belittle it and only live those precepts that appeal to them/ the “natural man.” Will ecumenicalism suffer? Perhaps. Will continued emphasis be given to whether one is Catholic or only “culturally” Catholic? Yup. Three cheers for decreased cognitive dissonance among the rest of the world for not having to decipher whether being Catholic includes doctrine X or not.

  6. Wilfried on April 20, 2005 at 6:40 am

    Excellent comment, Lyle. As to your question:

    “do you think it is accurate to say Pope Benedict XVI is drawing a mixed reaction ‘from Catholics’? Your statement would appear to be true in Europe and the U.S?.but largely inaccurate in the rest of the Catholic world; i.e. the ‘strong cleavages appear to be more regional and isolated than pandemic to the Catholic Church as a whole.”

    As far as I can judge from press commentaries — the sources we have to rely on for now — the cleavages are worldwide, but probably more outspoken and widespread in certain area’s. A fair number of Latin American Catholics share in the disappointment that it is again a European pope and one who does not sustain even mild forms of Liberation theology and who does not seem to have had poverty and equality high on his agenda. In Africa there is the problem of AIDS and its relation to Catholic guidelines. Overall there is not the exuberance that JPII could muster from the beginning, not even a joyful acceptance, but a critical “wait and see” attitude.

    Even if we can applaud doctrinal and moral steadfastness, the Catholic Church had been facing major problems that need to be tackled. One of those is celibacy and the related dramatic shortage in priests. Another is the role of women in the Church. It seems most Catholics wanted a new Pope to address these issues, but it seems unlikely that it will happen.

  7. lyle on April 20, 2005 at 6:52 am

    Utah viewpoint (incl. first presidency statement):

    http://www.newutah.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=53055&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0

    Hm…no controversy mentioned here…

  8. Alan Phipps on April 20, 2005 at 8:16 am

    Wilfried said,

    “One of those is celibacy and the related dramatic shortage in priests. Another is the role of women in the Church. It seems most Catholics wanted a new Pope to address these issues, but it seems unlikely that it will happen.”

    It is unlikely any pope would’ve done much of what was wanted here. The issue of women in the priesthood is basically a settled issue. And clerical celibacy is unlikely to change under any pope as it unlikely has much to d with the priest shortage, given that priest numbers are actually dramatically increasing in the third world. The Vatican actually reports more priests world-wide today than it did in 1961! That is because of the wild growth of the Catholic Church in places like Africa where the number of Catholics went from 3 mill. to 120 mill. in just a few decades. That doesn’t mean that there are enough priests.

    I’m a Catholic myself – I am very happy to see Benedict XVI. Catholics of the more liberal persuasion are not as happy, but then, there are very few popes they would be happy with (many viewed John Paul II with resignation). Catholics who are orthodox in their beliefs seem to receive Benedict XVI with great joy.

  9. Steve Evans on April 20, 2005 at 8:54 am

    Ronan has put up a nice discussion thread on BCC on this topic as well.

  10. Doc-Kwadwo on April 20, 2005 at 9:22 am

    FYI

    An appropriate alternative to using the umlaut in spelling that last name is to simply use an “E.”

    “Kueng.”

    Not that anyone asked.

  11. Steve L on April 20, 2005 at 10:43 am

    I could be wrong, but controversy or no, I think it’s exaggerated by the media. Every since John Paul’s ailment the media has been playing up the controversy and division within the Catholic church. I find this so alarming because we often see the same trends in the way the press treats our faith (i.e. giving equal or near-equal time to the dissent). I am no Catholic, but it pains me to see the way Catholic beliefs, practices and norms are treated with little or no respect in the public arena.

  12. Wilfried on April 20, 2005 at 11:01 am

    Thank you, Alan, for your Catholic participation on our Mormon blog! As a former Catholic, I remain very interested in what is happening in the Catholic Church, also of course from the standpoint of inter-Church relations and our mutual missionary efforts.

    You stated: “The Vatican actually reports more priests world-wide today than it did in 1961! That is because of the wild growth of the Catholic Church in places like Africa where the number of Catholics went from 3 mill. to 120 mill. in just a few decades.”

    I read here that “the Vatican says the church had about 405,450 priests worldwide in 2003, a 3.7 percent drop from 1978, the year John Paul took charge.” Of course, the years are different, but I understand from various sources that the problem remains. Hundreds of books and articles have been devoted to this complex issue of dwindling number of priests. The “Third World” priest callings must also been seen in their particular social and employment context. It’s no shame to admit a problem, we Mormons have our own too.

    Another interesting issue is how numbers of Catholics are counted. “More than one billion Catholics worldwide” — but how are they registered? I understand that figure counts whole populations of so-called Catholic countries, from Belgium to Brazil, but without taking into account how many do attend Church regularly. I’m sure they’re still counting me as a Catholic! In Mormon chapels, attendance is counted every Sunday and the totals are made (though not made public). It is assumed that maybe half of our 12 million members are regular church-goers, so claiming 12 million members is also a somewhat twisted approach. But how many of the one billion Catholics are attending Church regularly? My question has no critical undertone, I’m just curious to know how figures are calculated, e.g. when you say that in places like Africa “the number of Catholics went from 3 mill. to 120 mill. in just a few decades.” In proportion, the Mormons seem to have done much better since 1980. But then again, how many are still active Catholics and active Mormons?

  13. Jim F. on April 20, 2005 at 12:50 pm

    Lyle: Mormons are often touchy about quoting Anti-’s, or going to them for knowledge/opinions on the LDS Church, rather than asking practicing & faithful members. The same applies here in spades.

    I agree, but evidently you didn’t read past the link to Sullivan. There are a number of “pro” commentaries in those links. As I read the stories at the links I gave, the “pro” comments out number the “anti” ones, with some being neither.

  14. Alan Phipps on April 20, 2005 at 1:07 pm

    Wilfried,

    Thanks for your comments and for your welcome. I certainly didn’t intend to mask the problem of priest numbers – sorry if that wasn’t clear! I guess my point that it is a a much more salient issue for the Catholic Church in America, for sure, because the number of active American Catholics doesn’t increase at the same rate as the third world (we only had 125,000 adult Americans received into the Church this last Easter). Even if the worldwide number of priests increases, it may not be at a rate necessary to meet the demand of the faithful in each region. The Vatican does count about 405,000 priests worldwide, up from about 404,000 in 1961. However, there are about 50,000 more seminarians in 2001 than in 1978 at the beginning of John Paul’s pontificate. Whether they are all ordained remains to be seen. History seems to show that numbers of priests follow somewhat of a cyclic pattern with respect to the number of Catholics in any given region. Some times are fruitful, others aren’t.

    As to how the numbers are calculated, I’m sure there is a fair amount of estimation going on in the 1.1billion worldwide figure, so I agree. But on the more diocesan level, this number typically comes from parish registrations, which all active Catholics are encouraged to do (includes newborn baptisms, etc), as well as convert statistics (how many were baptized/received during each year). Yes, some eventually stop praticing, and parishes *should* keep up with this information, recollecting information (and throwing out registrations of families from whom they haven’t heard in some time). The interesting issue is that many practicing Catholics (especially of my generation – GenX) do not register and are therefore not included in the calculation. However, the incredible increase of Catholics in Africa is a recent phenomenon (read “within the last 50 or 60 years”) that has motivated the Church to institute new dioceses in place of missions and ordain local bishops for those dioceses in order to meet these demands. Many african seminarians are sent to America for their education.

    Thanks

  15. lyle on April 20, 2005 at 1:15 pm

    Jim: Actually, I was responding directly to the Sullivan link, as Bainbridge responded to his comments directly; the others, at best, indirectly. I think you did a good job of balancing out the pro-, con and neutral. I just wanted to supplement. :)

  16. Wilfried on April 20, 2005 at 2:08 pm

    Many thanks for the update, Alan! Keep coming to T&S!

  17. Alan Phipps on April 20, 2005 at 2:09 pm

    Wilfried,

    Thanks again to you and everyone who have been so nice to me here.

    Take care

  18. Julie in Austin on April 20, 2005 at 9:24 pm

    Wilfried’s point about numbers reminded me of something that I have been wondering about: Does that 12M number for LDS include kids under 8?

  19. Wilfried on April 21, 2005 at 1:25 am

    Julie, I understand that we are counting “children of record” if they are blessed and named and a record is entered. However, I don’t think we count children born in inactive families. This could explain the seemingly low Mormon birth rate if viewed strictly statistically: if we only count those that are formally blessed and named, but still relate that figure to the total Mormon population on record (including inactives), it falsifies the perspective. I refer to the following:

    “When one compares the 0.60-0.69% annual LDS membership growth attributed to increase of children of record to the annual world population growth rate of 1.55%-1.73%, it becomes apparent that this represents a surprisingly low natural increase in comparison to total membership. The annual population growth rate among Muslim groups is as high as 2.2-2.5%. It should also be noted that world population growth rates account for deaths as well as births, making the growth differential even more striking.”

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